So you are final year of uni (or college) and thinking ‘what the hell am I going to do next’? Yep that was me in my final year of uni. Nearly four years later I am now a Marketing and Communications Coordinator role and am very pleased in my role.

My experience job hunting was pretty average. I started applying for jobs after Easter of my final year which, as a tip, if you are thinking of doing a graduate scheme you need to be looking around about September of your final year. Going into my job hunt I lacked confidence. I felt that the skills I had learned from my degree was not enough. I got caught in the whole cycle of ‘got the degree but no experience’ which was an awful position to be in to be honest.
When I started applying for roles I signed up to a lot of job search engines (Monster, Reed and my uni’s own bespoke job search engine). I wrote my CV and got my partner to look it over and then I uploaded them. I would upload a cover letter and CV bespoke for each job because let’s face it, you don’t want to give an easy reason for a rejection.
My first jobs I applied for were just shop jobs to keep me going and allow me to stay in my old uni town. Additionally I already had my summer job as a cleaner lined up ( I had been cleaning in halls every summer since first year). It was a 16 week contract so knew I had 16 weeks to get myself a job full-time role.
After a few failed interviews I really started to ramp up the job hunt in June. I was applying for jobs every night and by then the interviews were coming in and, on average, I was going to one interview a week.  My work was really supportive and let me have the time I needed for those interviews. I would google all of these interview questions  and  get my partner to practice them with me. On my seventh week cleaning I went for an interview to become a market researcher at an Students’ Union. I was really ill that week ( I had flu), had been sick and was so close to not attending the interview but went anyway. Luckily I performed well and got the job.
What lessons did I learn from job hunting
I didn’t have the option to give up because if I wanted to live with my partner I had to earn money. However some graduates that I knew were living at home not doing a lot and waiting for the ‘perfect’ job.
Looking back, for those interviews I did do my homework and sat and learned as much as possible about the organisations (it is a pet hate of mine for people to turn up to interviews and not know anything about the organisation they are interviewing for).
Practice, practice, practice – get someone to interview you. Google questions relating to the role you are interviewing for.
Make sure you are passionate, is so important for any role and can make up if you are lacking in skills.
If I had my time at University again what would I do different to help my career

I would certainly have had a part-time job throughout term rather than just in the holidays. Preferably several different ones (not all at the same time) so I could get some experience.

Has anybody had any good or bad interview experiences?

Dear Stranger Book Review BecBe
(Image Source: Authors Own)

The deets:

Author: Various
Pages: 286
Publish Date: 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Dear Stranger is a collection of letters written by a variety of people from celebrities (such as Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson and Caitlin Moran) to those who have mental health issues regarding the subject of happiness. The book which is in the aid of Mind a mental health charity with at least £3 from every book sold going towards the organisation.
As the variety of authors is so different, it means the letters are all completely different. Some letters were illustrations, others based on personal experience and others were critiquing happiness. At most the letters were two pages long which is enough to create a real impact and leave you thinking about what has been written. Letters I particularly liked were ones by Arianna Huffington, Nicholas Allan, Nick Harkaway, Rachel Joyce, Seaneen Molloy- Vaughan and Thomas Harding. 
  

Studying Geography at University
Me in my graduation gown 🙂
(Image Source: Authors Own)
Studying Geography at University
Throwing our mortar boards in the air!
(Image Source: Authors Own)

Today seems rather fitting for this post as it has been three whole years since I have graduated from university. In England, it usually takes three years to complete a bachelor’s, therefore it has been a whole degree cycle since I have finished. I studied a BA (Hons) in Geography and got a 2:1 and a certificate for best final year performance and although I work in Marketing now (yes completely different career path) I did enjoy my course and took some skills that have helped me. If you are interested in studying Geography at university or just want to read about my experience then read on.

Why Did I Study Geography?
Geography was by far my favourite subject in school. I got an A at GCSE and B at A-level. I had an interest in the world for a very long time exacerbated by the fact that I had only been abroad a couple of times when I was young. I wanted to see more of it! I decided to study at Staffordshire University for a number of reasons including all field trips were free ( which is a massive plus as you will see later), the area to live in was cheap (as it is based in Stoke-on-Trent), the lecturers seemed really friendly and because I had studied Geography for so long, I felt comfortable in continuing the subject rather than starting a subject I had never studied before.

What Was The Course Like?
In the first year, the lecturers focus on building your skills so everyone is up to the same level.  This included creating maps on Adobe Illustrator, a field trip to Cannock Chase where we had to take lots of soil samples! An overnight field trip to the Peak District where we had to look at the pro’s and con’s of placing a fictional reservoir at a place called Edale and a module in human Geography which focused on the slave trade. I wasn’t keen on first year as it felt that there wasn’t enough human geography. This was intentionally done so people could swap to physical Geography they could, but frustrating for those who knew early on what they wanted to specialise in.

The second and third years were more focused, I remember a module called Cities where we explored how they were functioned and built. A module where we looked at financial districts around the world and how they worked. There was a module called Investigating Geography where we honed our research methods and built a research project. I took a module called Geographical Information Systems (GIS) which is an absolute must if you want to go down a Geography/ environmental type of career, as it combines mapping with data. I mapped land uses in Stoke- On-Trent as one of my assignments. The annual field trip was to Bangor in Wales where we looked at sand dune formation and how and why seaside towns are formed as they are and what impact has this formation has on tourism.

In my final year, I studied this topic called Refugees and Immigrants. It was by far one of my favourite modules. It looked at world migration movements and why people migrate, the implications and there was an in-depth view into the terminology used in migration.

In addition, I undertook two research projects- my dissertation which was exploring Staffordshire University students’ attitudes towards the environment and researching if the Times of India reported on certain environmental issues more than others. The second research project of which I had to be interviewed by my lecturers as it was a research project where you worked alongside your lecturer. I was quite pleased to get this as I was up against people I knew and I am very competitive. Finally there was a field trip to Barcelonia!

What Were My Lectures Like?
The lectures were a mix. So modules such as Cities were very much taking notes and reading in your own time afterwards with essays and an exam. The field work was very hands on. Lots of data recording and taking photos and bagging up soil samples. There was a lot of group work and presentations, presentations I think are really important as I have done far more presenting at work than writing essays.

I remember my course being very organised. You knew the dates for everything in advance and you knew what was expected of you. If you were not sure about something, the lecturer’s door was pretty much always open. That is particularly important as I have heard some proper horror stories of lecturers not turning up, personal tutors not being helpful or in some cases the course not existing when people arrived to study.

What Would You Have Done Differently?
Looking back I would have definitely got myself a placement in the holidays (although I did work full time as a cleaner, so I wasn’t sitting around and doing nothing) and worked part-time during term time. In my current role where I occasionally read application forms, a placement really makes you stand out, as it has shown you can apply what you have learnt in lectures. As much as I enjoyed being on a sports team I feel that at university, it shouldn’t be treated like an extension to school and that having a job where you are dealing with customers shows interviewers that you can work in a variety of difficult situations. It is a lot harder to show this being part of a sports team.

I should have done more research into what occupations you can go into after Geography and what people did with their degree. Afterwards when I was researching I found there were very few geographical and environmental roles around in the area where I lived. When you find yourself looking at graduate schemes a lot of companies won’t accept applications from those with Geography degrees as they prefer someone with English or Business Studies or Marketing. So keep that in mind.

What Were Your Opinions Of Your Course?
Overall I thought the course was good and the lecturers were always really supportive. I did enjoy the content and the field trip in Barcelona was really fun. I do think (and although I am speaking from experience of my course, it could apply to others) that there were missed opportunities where my course could have gone from good to amazing.

In my first year, I remember in groups we had to produce a poster advertising this new fictional reservoir in Edale. Rather than just creating a poster we could have done a whole marketing campaign on it. We could have had lessons from the business department on marketing. Since I am in marketing now it would have given more of those ‘transferable’ skills that these employers crave rather than just a poster done on Publisher.

I didn’t appreciate it then, but I am so glad the field trips were free. I have spoken to people who studied at other universities and they would have to save up £800 to go on this compulsory trip. With rent and living expenses, it is a lot of money on top to think about. I appreciate Barcelonia is not that far away compared to some far flung places other universities go on (one of my friends went to Africa for his final year trip) however I would rather go to somewhere in Europe and not pay rather than go further afield.

What Did I Do With My Course?
Soon after I graduated I managed to get an internship at the SU for a year. After that I moved into marketing where I am currently at now.

Why Should You Study Geography?
If you want a career in the environment or have an interest in the world around you Geography is a good subject to study. If you are very data driven GIS is good route to go down. Geography is a good subject to build quite a few skills such as writing, data collecting even design. However these days I recommend you have at least a basic idea in what you want to do with the degree and work your way to meeting this target.

So there we have it. Three years of my degree condensed into one post. I hope you can see a glimpse into why I studied Geography and what I thought of the course.



Still Alice Book Review
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‘I can’t stand the thought of looking at you someday, this face I love, and not knowing who you are.’

Alice is just fifty when she finds herself in a downward spiral, increasingly disorientated and forgetful. A university professor, wife and mother of three, she has books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But now a tragic diagnosis of early- on- set Alzheimer’s disease is set to change her life- and her relationship with her family and the world- forever. 

Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short- term memory is hanging by a frayed thread. But she is still Alice.

Picked up this book in my local Tesco looking for something to pass the time when I used to travel on the train. This is my review of the book below.
The backdrop of Alice’s life is set out to tap into your worst fears. A successful Harvard professor in Cognitive Psychology renowned in linguistics, married with three adult children. Suddenly has early onset Alzheimer’s. It starts with simple things that you or me could do. Forgetting a word or where you put the phone charger however as the narrative progress, it starts to become more sinister as names and where she lives are suddenly not as clear and are difficult to retrieve. 
Diagnosis comes at the worst time. Her husband, John,  is distant as ever, Anna, her eldest daughter is trying to conceive and her younger daughter Lydia is trying to make it as an actress- a career Alice disproves. You start to understand how fast Alzheimer’s develops when Alice sits in her lecture theatre waiting to be taught not realising that she is the one meant to be teaching. When she forgets that her daughter is performing in a play, and her husband who has to go running with her as she cannot go out alone. You realise it is serious.  
There are numerous symbolisms in the book that do not go unnoticed. A few worth mentioning (it is only a book review, not a literature essay!) is the bitter irony of the situation. Alice teaches and research’s psychology every day. Therefore, it seems so sad that her brain fails her. 
Alice although has had a successful life it is a life that has been fraught with sadness. Both her mum and sister died in a car accident that was caused by her alcoholic father driving the car back from visiting Alice at university. The sadness of her upbringing is punctuated with the upset that comes in how her life will end. The life theme manifests itself when Alice’s older daughter is struggling to conceive and further to this when all three children have the option to see if they have Alzheimer’s.

A final theme is spontaneity. Alzheimer’s has been sprung upon what has been a linear life for Alice. John had lead a linear life working his way up and so has Alice to an extent. Her two children Tom and Anna are living there lives the way in the order in which life usually goes (to use Anna’s case as an example becoming a lawyer, getting married and now wanting a child). However, Lydia is the anomaly in this, from not going to university to being the only child to choose not to find out if she has Alzheimers.

I like the idea that the book is told by Alice, it’s her story and no one else’s. Although the Alzheimer’s is stripping her away. Allowing us to live the story through her eyes gives her some dignity. 
To conclude, I felt the story was a really good read. This is through the narrative and the plot that was well thought out and not too scientific that you need a degree in psychology to understand it. On a side note, interestingly Genova had self- published this book before it was acquired by Simon & Schuster. In the reader’s group guide after the book Genova felt self- publishing was a great way to get yourself noticed and not wait around for rejection or otherwise. Hence, look at the success she has now! Not a book I would usually pick up or a topic I was particularly interested in, it is certainly worth a read. I want to watch the movie now.   
      

(Image Source: Authors Own)

Not only do I love reading books but my passion for reading extends out to blogs. My Bloglovin (best app ever) is full of blogs and saved posts that I don’t know quite what I would do if I lost them all. Anyhow here is a second dose of blogs I am enjoying at the moment.

Poppy D
I have followed Poppy Dinsey right from the beginning when WIWT (What I Wore Today) was just a blog showcasing her clothes to seeing it become a full scale business. In her personal blog Poppy talks about what is going on in her life away from WIWT. Special love goes to her wedding posts (that dress FYI!), her experience swimming in open water for charity and her post, which is a few years old now, on her jaw surgery. Poppy can write, she really can write. Her writing style is chatty and a lot of her going out and food posts are based on places in London (disadvantage of me living in the Midlands, but that’s not her fault!) but she knows her stuff (Poppy is lovely on twitter too!). 
FitSugar
This American blog is a great instigator in all things fitness. Sometimes there are full posts, others are just introductions to YouTube videos. However I have been saving a lot of the food and workout videos to try out later ( I haven’t tried them yet but that’s a different story…).
Media Marmalade
Media Marmalade is another blog that I have been following for ages. Although primarily a fashion blog I have found the posts about photography (the photography is top notch) and building a better blog to be the best posts. As Melissa’s day job (being a Business Director creating communications strategies for clients), I feel this gives her advice a certain positive weighting over some others that offer blog advice.   
Autumn Leaves Blog
Finally I found this site amongst the popular posts on Bloglovin. Autumn Leaves Blog focuses on improving your blog (which I definitely need) taking it to that all important next level. Each post is backed up with relevant statistics (Check out the post How To Choose The Best Social Media Network For You as a great example). I am grateful for this quality free advice as I am sure many people would charge to give the same. Indeed Rebecca runs a consultancy service and like Media Marmalade I tend to take her advice more seriously because it is her day job.          
That’s it for today. Are there any blogs you would recommend?